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Cheyenne police seek help in church sex abuse investigation

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Bishop Joseph Hart

Bishop Joseph Hart is shown in an undated photo from the Casper Star-Tribune archive. Hart served as bishop or auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne from 1976 to 2001. He spent 20 years as a priest in Kansas City before coming to Wyoming.

CHEYENNE — The Cheyenne Police Department is asking for help in the investigation of a local church official accused of sexually abusing at least one boy when he worked there from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Cheyenne Police Department spokesman Officer Kevin Malatesta said detectives are hoping to talk to anyone who has information about the alleged abuse.

“Everybody’s testimony adds to the case, and so if we have other credible witnesses or victims to these crimes, that assists us in the prosecution of this,” Malatesta said.

The news release doesn’t specifically name the person the department is investigating, but it points to a recent announcement by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne that it found new evidence that Bishop-Emeritus Joseph Hart had abused at least two young boys when he worked there from 1976-2001.

An attorney for Hart vehemently denied those accusations at the time of the diocese’s announcement, referring to a 2002 investigation from the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office that found “no evidence” of such abuse.

CPD’s press release comes on the heels of last week’s release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report accusing at least 300 priests of sexually abusing more than 1,000 victims from across the state.

Malatesta said the timing of the CPD release was purely coincidental, however.

“These things have taken place in other communities, as well, and that’s one of the things we wanted to put out to the public,” he said. “We are aware of the social stigma that these crimes carry, but we want to make sure we’re aware of any victims or witnesses ... so we can help hold this person to account and to justice.”

The investigation is currently limited to one person, but Malatesta said if anybody has information about other alleged perpetrators in Cheyenne, he encourages them to come forward.

Wyoming does not have a statute of limitations, meaning that prosecutors may still charge someone with a crime decades after it occurred.

“Things that have been reported 30 or 40 years ago are looked at in an entirely different way now,” Malatesta said. “If somebody had brought something up in the past but felt like it wasn’t investigated, we want to know about it.”

If anyone has information about this or any other crime, they should contact the Laramie County Dispatch Center at 307-637-6525.

In an effort to consolidate the cases, the department is asking anyone who wants to make a report to do so by Sept. 21, according to the release.

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